Shidduchim By the Numbers: Failure Touted as Success Part 2

The shidduchim initiative released more detailed information based on age and gender. The table below shows a breakdown of shidduch suggestions during the first few months of the program, and the total number of engagements spanning the entire length of the initiative (data on first dates is not available).

Suggestions

916 Total

1050 Total

Engagements

49 Total

49 Total

Age

M

F

Age

M

F

19

2

21

19

1

2

20

6

55

20

0

4

21

18

91

21

1

7

22

42

92

22

2

6

23

100

108

23

4

5

24

80

95

24

8

4

25

89

124

25

4

3

26

83

85

26

4

2

27

91

74

27

2

4

28

65

53

28

3

2

29

63

46

29

7

2

30

66

64

30

4

1

31

38

23

31

1

0

32

26

23

32

0

0

33

24

22

33

2

2

34

11

19

34

0

2

35

28

16

35

2

0

36

20

5

36

1

0

37

20

4

37

0

0

38

4

7

38

1

2

39

5

4

39

1

0

40

4

0

40

0

0

41

2

3

41

0

0

42

7

1

42

0

1

43

5

2

43

1

0

44

0

0

44 and up

0

0

45

0

1

46

1

2

47

2

2

48

0

0

49

2

2

50

1

0

51

2

1

52

1

0

53

0

0

54

1

0

55

0

1

56

0

0

57

2

1

58

0

0

59

1

0

60

0

1

61

0

2

62

1

0

63

0

0

64

2

0

65

0

0

66

0

0

67

0

0

68

1

0

A number of very significant inferences can be drawn from the data.

Observation #1: 77% of the shidduch suggestions for men were for ages 30 and younger, and a whopping 86% of the corresponding suggestions for women. We don’t know what percentage of singles overall is 30 and younger, but there are more singles 31 and up than at any time in memory, which is why we’re even having this conversation. This is especially true with the ever-increasing number of fairly young divorcees looking to remarry.

What this tells us: Older singles – even slightly older singles – are essentially pariahs in the Orthodox world. This will not come as a revelation to even one older single, but it will hopefully open some eyes among the rest of the community. According to the data, men over the age of 37 and women over the age of 35 received virtually no shidduch suggestions at all, and for the entire life of the program those age brackets have merited only 3 engagements.

In other words, the singles in our community who need help the most receive it the least. The singles who are most frustrated, who are clinging to the dream of still building a family, receive almost no attention whatsoever while their biological clocks tick ever louder. They are lepers. The community has given up on them, is cold to their pain, and really doesn’t want to be bothered with them anymore. They had their chance, and the time spent making shidduchim is better spent on younger singles. Older singles are thought of as a poor investment of time and energy, if they are thought of at all.

At the same time, the rabbis and married experts will preach to this population that they must continue to believe that it can happen, that it will happen, and they must remain positive at all times. (Someone I know recommended being a “psychotic optimist”. I’m not sure any form of psychosis should be employed when it comes to shidduchim.) They will be urged to use this opportunity to grow in ways that married people can’t grow, to pick up a new hobby, to get another degree, and to go for lots and lots of coaching and therapy.

What they won’t be told is that someone has a shidduch suggestion for them, let alone one that resonates.

If older singles leave the Orthodox community they will not be missed, and in fact many of them do just that. I don’t agree with their decision, but it’s hard for me to blame them.

What this also tells us: Those trying to make shidduchim are not as altruistic and idealistic as they like to believe, even if they are not taking money. The overwhelming majority of people who decide to get involved, presumably with the most noble of intentions, take the path of least resistance. They think of a girl fresh out of seminary, think of a guy who has just “come on the market”, and presto, it’s a match.

Shadchanim ranging from “professional” to most unprofessional focus on the youngest of singles simply because there are more of them and they are easier to deal with. They haven’t gone through years of dating hell, so shidduch suggestions are still somewhat new and exciting, even if they are random and haphazard. The youngest of singles are more amenable to these suggestions, more likely to say yes without wasting too much precious time from the person making the suggestion, who really just wants a “yes”, a “thank you”, a “Mazel Tov”, and an easy ticket to Gan Eden. Young singles still think they can trust people (they’ll learn), will more readily allow strangers to insinuate themselves into their personal lives, and can more easily be influenced, instructed, and manipulated. It is no wonder shadchanim gravitate to them and are leery of older singles, who have learned to set up defense mechanisms and not just do what they are told.

It’s also true that older singles by definition have a history of “failure”, regardless of how much of that is their “fault”, and shadchanim view them as reclamation projects. Just as older singles have learned not to be excited by the next random shidduch suggestion, shadchanim have learned that older singles are not as exciting to deal with. Older singles are more likely to want to have an actual conversation with them, to be treated as adults and equals, to expect more meaningful and relevant information about the potential date, and for shadchanim to understand what works and what doesn’t work for them. All this translates to more time and work for the shadchan. Who wants to work?

Put all this together, and it’s entirely logical and understandable that older singles receive far fewer shidduch suggestions. However, it’s only understandable when shadchanim (by which I refer to anyone suggesting a shidduch) approach things with a self-centered attitude. If the act of making a shidduch suggestion is more about feeling good about themselves, enjoying being involved in other people’s lives, and having the greatest odds of scoring a mythical free ticket to Gan Eden, then it makes sense to ignore older singles. It is best to simply make as many shidduch suggestions as possible to the population with the least baggage and the greatest willingness to do what they are told. According to the data, this is exactly what is happening.

If, however, the process of making a shidduch suggestion is more about the other people, about performing a true act of chessed, about emulating Hashem, about alleviating the pain and suffering of the shidduch process for people who have experienced it the most, then singles of all ages would find no more warm and welcoming place than the Orthodox Jewish community. They would find that shadchanim truly care about them, that shadchanim empathize with what singles are going through, and that shadchanim are not just looking for a quick yes, an invitation to the wedding, and a reward.

I do not know any singles who would describe the community and the shidduch process in these terms. If a community does not care about older singles, then it does not really care about singles at all – just feeling good about itself.

Observation #2: Women received more shidduch suggestions than men.

What this tells us: The shidduch world is not fixed against women. This runs contrary to what is regurgitated at every conference on the shidduch world, and in practically every speech and article by a mainstream pundit (which I most certainly am not). We are told over and over again that men have “lists” of women just desperate to meet them and that men can go through a narcissistic selection process like Achashverosh, while the women sit helplessly by their phones hoping a shadchan calls them.

It’s all a lie. Fake news.

One might argue that women are only receiving more total suggestions because of another bit of propaganda that is relentlessly shoved down our throats: there is an overwhelming surplus of fantastic single women out there, and not nearly enough men.

False. If that were true, the precious few good men out there would be inundated with shidduch suggestions, one after another after another, so that the total number of shidduch suggestions received by men would far surpass those of the women. The numbers don’t lie. It isn’t true. Women received nearly 15% more suggestions than men, and if men were really an endangered species, the women wouldn’t be so quick to turn them down.

There are many, many problems in the shidduch world, but a gender imbalance is not one of them, let alone one that warrants the hyperbolic attention it receives.

Observation #3: Older single men are not receiving many more shidduch suggestions than their female counterparts.

What this tells us: Once again the propaganda is fake news. There is an extremely well-funded and touted campaign that relentlessly pushes the notion that men are being fixed up with women significantly their junior. While the data suggests that typically the man is slightly older than the woman – which has been normal as far back as we know – there is nothing to suggest that older single men are cavorting with girls fresh out of seminary.

Indeed, from ages 19-22, women received an overwhelmingly greater number of shidduch suggestions than men of the same age. In the “more frum” world, men often don’t even begin dating until 23, so women have a four-year head start. This advantage for females is rarely acknowledged, but it’s huge; if the shidduch system were functioning properly, four years would be an eternity for someone young and actively searching to find a partner. Yet, tellingly, we don’t see a great number of engagements during these years. This four-year head start is mostly squandered. They are not marrying in large numbers, and they are certainly not marrying men much their senior.

From ages 23-26 the women still received more suggestions, but things are beginning to even out. From ages 27-35 the men received more suggestions, but this seems to be mostly coincidental; in most of these years it’s virtually even, and women of age 34 received nearly twice as many as suggestions as the men of that age. In only two years did the men receive a great deal more suggestions: 36 and 37, which makes sense, being that the number of suggestions for women permanently fell off a cliff after age 35. After that, it nosedives for everyone.

In other words, the women received far more suggestions for four years in the beginning of their shidduchim years, and the men had a significant statistical advantage for two years much later, before both men and women were virtually ignored altogether. There is no travesty for men to have a slightly later “expiration date” when women have a four-year head start. And there is no indication that the 40 total suggestions for men ages 36-37 were with women much their junior, anyway.

So all the advertisments and pundits proclaiming that there is a crisis of slightly older single women being left out in the cold while men are dating much younger women is a lot of noise and fake news. I’ve been writing about this for years, and have been alternately insulted and ignored for my efforts, but the numbers back me up. The problems in the shidduch world are not due to some demographic imbalance, discrimination against women, or silver foxes chasing the secretary.

If the community is ready to wake up, be honest, and tackle the real issues, I’d love for us to finally have that conversation.

Observation #4: The number of engagements for men and women was equal.

What this tells us: There is still some sanity and moral clarity in the Orthodox world. We shouldn’t take anything for granted, and I bring this up to close on a positive note. We’re still the finest people on earth, we have the greatest access to objective Truth and the unshakable belief that such a thing even exists. We can identify and fix the real problems if we are willing to push ego and factionalism to the side, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

Will you join me?

________________________________________

Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance” and “EndTheMadness Guide to the Shidduch World”. Many of his writings are available at www.chananyaweissman.com. He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, Single Jewish Male, and The Shidduch Chronicles, available on YouTube. He can be contacted at admin@endthemadness.org.

About the Author
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including “Go Up Like a Wall” and “How to Not Get Married: Break these rules and you have a chance”. Many of his writings are available at www.chananyaweissman.com. He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, Single Jewish Male, and The Shidduch Chronicles, available on YouTube. He can be contacted at admin@endthemadness.org.
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